19 Sep Q&A WITH KATHY HINES & LENG LOH, PRODUCERS OF CREATING A PLACE AT THE TABLE
Producers Kathy Hines and Becky Burklee are not only filmmaking partners, but life partners as well. Together they founded Sun & Moon Vision Productions, a San Diego-based non-profit organization dedicated to nurturing a humanitarian vision through media art productions, events and education. The 2000 documentary, “YOUTH OUTLOUD!,” addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our schools, screened at film festivals around the world. Leng Loh, executive producer, works as a producer at KPBS Public Television. Her previous independent documentaries include “Democracy Under Pressure: Japanese Americans and World War II” (SDAFF 2001) and “The Ties That Bind: An Asian Family’s Journey with HIV.”
PACIFIC ARTS MOVEMENT: The film did a wonderful job of capturing the joy and frustrations felt by the couples. How personal did this film become?
LENG LOH: The film started out as deeply personal from the very beginning. I first got the idea for the documentary because I’d spent my formative coming-out years looking up to my friend Luisa as a role model: Luisa came from a tight-knit Asian family and was able to come out to them while maintaining her family ties—without having to choose between family and personal happiness. I always thought, “Other people need to see this… to feel the kind of hope that I felt when I heard Luisa’s story.”
KATHY HINES: For us as producers, the documentary helped us to research the idea of starting our own family, so a lot of the information gathered during interviews was of particular personal importance (there isn’t a lot of media out there to role model this topic). It also made us think a lot more about our own connections with our families and cultures—Becky comes from a tight-knit Mormon family and my mother was Okinawan. In the process of working on this film, I started to get in touch with my own long-lost Okinawan roots. Through some Internet sleuthing, I was able to contact relatives in Okinawa and in February of 2003, Becky and I returned to my mother’s home island village of Tarama-Jima for an amazing reunion—all captured on video, of course.
PAC ARTS: You gained extraordinary access to some very intimate aspects of these couples’ lives. How did you build that trust?
HINES: I don’t believe that we could have captured the honesty without our personal connections on some level—there must be a level of trust for couples to let you into their personal family lives and videotape them.
Our focus in filmmaking with Sun & Moon Vision Productions has been on social justice with equality, women and youth issues, so we had a good track record to share. We shared our film history/bios, offered couples the opportunity to interview us about the project and our intentions, and invited community participation on an advisory capacity to ensure that the issues presented were accurate “today.” We also tended to schedule many interviews/filming around meal times, as they are usually good family times, and we just happened to be invited to eat with them—it worked out well for us! When you sit at a table and “break bread” with a family, there is a natural bonding. Our ability to connect with people also builds trust. If we don’t make that connection as documentary filmmakers, the viewer will not either.
PAC ARTS: How do you feel about seeing more Asian lesbians in Hollywood recently, including in SAVING FACE? ?
LOH: It’s wonderful! And it makes me cry! It’s so incredibly powerful to see our stories, and our families, on the big screen. It’s really gratifying to see that the studios are taking chances with our stories. And I love seeing who shows up in the theaters at these screenings—imagining that the middle-aged Asian woman sitting in front of me is someone’s mom, going through a quiet epiphany of her own in the darkness of the movie theater.
HINES: It’s really important that we all support Asian lesbian films and Asian and lesbian/gay film festivals; if there is an audience making demands, there will be reason to keep producing and funding these films.
PAC ARTS: What’s next for you?
HINES: Sun & Moon Vision Productions’ current major project is a documentary series on women peacemakers from around the world. Thus far we have highlighted women from South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Israel, Somalia. The documentary currently in production includes women from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone and Guatemala. The four women peacemakers we will be filming this coming fall are from the Philippines, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Cambodia. These women are on the frontlines of war-torn countries and are working to create peace with justice in their countries. The documentary project is a collaboration between the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice and Sun & Moon Vision Productions. See www.sunandmoonvision.com for more details.
On a more personal note, we (Kathy and Becky) are in the process of adopting a wonderful baby girl who came into their lives about a year after we completed CREATING A PLACE AT THE TABLE. And Leng and her partner Lisa are expecting their first baby in the spring. So the family continues to grow.
We sincerely appreciate the opportunity given to us by the San Diego Asian Film Festival to screen our documentary CREATING A PLACE AT THE TABLE. It is so valuable for people to see themselves reflected positively on the big screen.
CREATING A PLACE AT THE TABLE is scheduled to screen on Sunday, 10/2 at 7:05 pm at UltraStar Mission Valley.
Pacific Arts Movement presents Asian American Pacific Islander and Asian international media arts for San Diego residents and visitors in order to inspire, entertain and support a more compassionate society.